The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts recently handed down an appellate decision concerning the conviction of former Speaker of House Salvatore DiMasi under the state’s lobbying law. The ruling unanimously reversed a decision upholding DiMasi’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The court found that Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who oversees state lobbying law, misinterpreted the law when bringing the case against DiMasi.
The case against DiMasi was based on his work as a consultant for Cognos Corp., a computer software company that had contract with the state. Galvin argued that DiMasi had violated the state’s lobbying law by failing to register as a lobbyist for Cognos and failing to disclose work he performed on the company’s behalf.
The SJC disagreed and ruled that Galvin had misinterpreted the law by not recognizing that DiMasi’s activities did not meet the definition of a lobbyist. The court noted that DiMasi’s role was as an independent adviser to Cognos, rather than as a paid intermediary who attempts to influence government officials on behalf of the company.
The ruling set a significant precedent for other cases involving alleged violations of the lobbying law. The SJC’s decision makes it clear that work performed as an “independent contractor” on behalf of a company or other employer does not constitute “lobbying” under the Massachusetts lobbying law.
The ruling also demonstrated how important it is to understand the distinctions between various types of work that require registration as a lobbyist in order to be compliant with state law. In the past, many people who worked in roles such as consultants or contractors have not been aware that they may be subject to the state’s lobbying laws. They may not have even realized that they were technically engaging in lobbying activities, as defined under Massachusetts law.
The judicial system can be confusing, and this case demonstrates the importance of consulting with an experienced legal advisor when engaging in activities that could potentially require the registration of a lobbyist. It also highlights the need for those in charge of enforcing the state’s lobbying laws to be aware of the distinctions between advisory and lobbying activities. Doing so can help to ensure that all involved remain compliant with state law.
Overall, the SJC’s opinion in the DiMasi case sets an example for interpreting and enforcing Massachusetts’ lobbying laws. It also serves as a reminder to those who participate in lobbying and advisory activities that they must be aware of their responsibilities under the law in order to remain compliant.